Shri had the honour of introducing this untypical, energetic and courageous adventure Dr Maureen Howard. 

Originally hailing from Northern Ireland, Maureen had lived 23 years in Dunedin, working in Sustainability Education when coming to a crossroads in her life. At the end of a work contract, needing to see her Mum, hitting the big 50 and deciding that it was time for an adventure she decided a low carbon trip to Ireland would meet the criteria. Hitchhiking, freighters, boats, buses, trains and a smile took her 35,000 kms to Ireland to see Mum on a route less travelled, 17,000 by land, 18,000 by sea. Maureen followed the summer sun taking 11 months to get there, a 6 month stay in Ireland and 8 months to get home. What an experience!! What absolute courage. What a tale to tell.

Maureen freely admits to bouts of anxiety, terrified of travelling alone off the beaten path. The  family joke was how much were they really prepared to pay in ransom??? Luckily her sheer determination, the moments of excitement and anticipation about this low carbon adventure outweighed those sleepless nights. She did learn to break the sometimes daunting kilometres down into steps, overcome her fears and gaining courage as she focused on the particular transportation’s destination or where she would rest her head that night and how she was going to make that happen. Soon the unfamiliar became easier to do as she learnt a few tricks along the way like using duct tape on her laptop to look poor. While constantly vigilant, especially through Central America, Maureen was delighted to realise that genuine kindness and honesty are worldwide. 

Why travel on a freighter? It is actually a low carbon way of moving freight, 20% less emissions than flying freight while a cruise ship emits 4 x as much. A cool $200NZD gives you passage, cabin accommodation and ‘food’ on a working ship,  some in better states than others. Sometimes there were other passengers, other times it was just her and the 23 men. You had full access to various areas of the ship, the bridge, the front, sometimes the engine room. There was a small gym and you ate in the Officers Mess. No internet meant the luxury of time. Maureen used her time to learn Spanish. 

Some of Maureen’s low carbon Freighters:




Travelling by Coach is very carbon friendly and a way of easing herself into hitchhiking using this as a fallback, more so at the start of her trip. Had some real experiences as a ‘wild camper’ in Northern Ireland living her motto of “O waste camper only leave bent grass.” Interesting tale of the night in the Cemetery with the Gravediggers at work.

Some of the highlights:

Various birdlife, bush smelling like NZ in Central America, the monkeys in the Palenque National park, riding 4 ½ hours on horseback to visit a friend in the wop wops, the Myan Ruins, laguna de Bacalar - a lake of 7 colours, the scarlett Mcaws in Honduras, the Panama Canal and spending $500USD on a sailing ship travelling around the San Blas Islands, also where she got very sick for 12 hours, they ran out of food and had to live on sugar dissolved in water but hey you got to take the good with bad in any situation.

Coming home Maureen took about 8 months to settle, apparently this is quite common as you settle into daily routine. She is now running a sustainability business called ‘Treedom’ and a principal writer for the Resilient.